Let’s Blue Sky This
Todd Boehly has, it seems, started something. It is little more than a month since the Chelsea owner — unprompted and ill-advisedly — suggested that the Premier League might like to consider staging its own version of an all-star game, and the idea has already mutated into something even bigger, even more unwieldy, and even more likely to be derided on talk radio.
Various unnamed Premier League executives have, according to The Times of London, floated the possibility of staging a series of showpiece games across the world between teams comprising the best players from the top flights of England, Italy, Spain and Germany — sorry, France, you don’t make the cut, apparently — in order to expand soccer’s appeal to “emerging markets.”
There are several red flags here. The fact the executives are unnamed, for example. As a rule, if someone thinks they have a good idea, a real winner, they cannot wait to put their name to it. If, on the other hand, they are engaged in what might be described as a craven money grab, they tend to decide that they are “not authorized to speak on the matter.”
So, too, the justification for the project. Does soccer really need to expand into emerging markets? What possible territory remains virgin to the great sports industrial complex? There are farmers in wild corners of Mongolia who will spend hours online screaming that Cristiano Ronaldo only scores penalties; seeing Sandro Tonali and Declan Rice in Shanghai will not add to their ardor for the sport.
But putting that entirely understandable queasiness aside — and parking, just for a moment, the valid complaint that elite players do too much soccer-playing as it is — we must consider the unlikely possibility that this is, in fact, quite a good idea. Particularly, say, if these fixtures replaced preseason tours, and if the money they generated was weighted so that the smaller teams in each league got rather more of it.
That does not mean it is not a craven money grab, of course. It is very obviously a craven money grab. If something is being suggested by a major soccer team, it goes without saying that it is because they think they have spotted an untapped revenue stream. But that does not mean it is necessarily devoid of merit.
The Context of Records